BP accused of judge-shopping for seeking Republican judge to handle lawsuits
Jacqui Goddard, Miami
BP has been accused of “judge shopping” after pushing for a specific judge in Houston, Texas — the centre of America’s oil and gas industry — to handle the lawsuits against it.
In a move condemned yesterday by several legal experts as indicative of corporate arrogance but defended by others as accepted tactical manoeuvring, the British energy group has filed papers requesting that all pre-trial matters in litigation relating to the Deepwater Horizon disaster be assigned to US District Judge Lynn Hughes.
Judge Hughes, 69, who was nominated in 1985 by the Republican President, Ronald Reagan, is also a lecturer for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, whose 31,000 members work mainly in the oil and gas industry and which works with oil companies including BP.
He has also earned thousands of dollars in royalties from leasing energy exploration companies the mineral rights on land that he owns — though not to BP — owned stock in Big Oil and has granted significant rulings in the industry’s favour.
Of the 64 federal judges in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida that sit in districts where Deepwater Horizon lawsuits have been filed, 37 have financial links to the oil and gas industry, an investigation has found.
A number receive royalties on mineral leases while others own stocks or bonds in BP, as well as in Transocean, the company that operated the ill-fated rig, and Halliburton, which cemented the well that is spewing up to 25,000 barrels (1.05 million US gallons) of oil a day.
According to the National Law Journal, seven of the 12 federal judges in the eastern district of Louisiana have recused themselves from hearing oil spill cases because of their connections to the industry.
They include US District Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon in New Orleans, who owns stock in BP. District Judge Carl Barbier, also of New Orleans, who is favoured by a number of plaintiffs’ lawyers, divulged that he holds investments in Transocean and Halliburton but is selling them to avoid any conflict.
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Jun 7, 2010 … The idea that BP might one day file for bankruptcy, particularly as part of a merger that would enable it to cordon off its liabilities from …
BP looks for bankruptcy protection, fearing cleanup cost
BP North America is looking for options to protect itself against large claims stemming form the April 20th oil spill and bankruptcy filing would give the Company that shelter and protection from any lawsuit.
Sources confirmed last night that BP North America’s legal counsel is looking into the option to protect itself from what may become the largest settlement ever. A bankruptcy protection, or Chapter 11 filing, would shield the company from any and all claims filed against BP until it restructures its debt and obligations before emerging from the court ruling.
Such a filing would mean that any individual or business that has joined a class action lawsuit against BP North America due to loss of jobs or damage due to the oil spill will have to wait and see whether they will ever get compensated.
That is bad news for Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida as well as any local business owners since they will be considered secondary creditors for the duration of the bankruptcy protection.
The filing would also mean that any and all assets will be frozen by court order and no claims against such can be duly filed in any court.
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- JUNE 9, 2010, 10:25 A.M. ET
TNK-BP Optimistic on Siberian Gas Venture’s Bankruptcy
MOSCOW—TNK-BP Ltd., BP PLC’s Russian venture, hopes a recent bankruptcy filing at a Siberian gas venture will speed up the government’s takeover of the project, allowing TNK-BP to recover at least some of the roughly $900 million it invested there, interim Chief Executive Mikhail Fridman said Wednesday.
Under pressure from regulators, TNK-BP agreed to sell its controlling stake in the huge Kovykta field to state gas giant OAO Gazprom back in 2007. But Gazprom never closed the deal and executives say publicly the company doesn’t need Kovykta’s huge reserves. Government deliberations on another possible state buyer have dragged on for years without conclusion.
Mr. Fridman said last week’s bankruptcy filing was an effort to bring the process to a close. “It’s a rational step for us as a creditor, it starts up a process and sets some deadlines,” he said, noting that the entire insolvency procedure could take six to eight months. Because TNK-BP is the only major creditor, the bankruptcy process ensures it gets first chance at any sale proceeds and protects the company from the risk of regulators revoking the license to the field.
Mr. Fridman expressed surprised at the wave of negative publicity around BP from the spill.
Yesterday was apparently World Oceans Day on Day 50 of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill covering the Gulf of Mexico with oil –
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Mississippi Tourism figures at risk
# Estimated travel and tourism expenditures by visitors to Mississippi for fiscal year 2010 are expected to come in around $5.2 billion – down 7 percent from last year’s $5.6 billion.
# Roughly a third of out-of-state dollars are spent in the state’s three coastal counties.
# It’s unknown what percentage of that decline is due to the oil spill versus the general economic downturn. The fiscal year ends June 30.
# In Harrison, Hancock and Jackson counties, 23,600 jobs are tied to the tourism industry.
Source: Mississippi Development Authority.
Barbour also inserted himself into the turf war over the $15 million BP gave the state for advertising its beaches and tourist attractions in Harrison, Hancock and Jackson counties.
Kenneth Montana, a former Gulf Coast restaurant owner and president of the Harrison County Tourism Commission, said the state is moving far too slowly in building a comprehensive advertising campaign to lure tourists and combat misguided perceptions about the oil.
An emulsified strand washed onto Petit Bois Island last week and then quickly washed away, leaving no stains on the state’s easternmost barrier island, officials reported. Otherwise, the state’s beaches have been spared.
Montana contends his organization, working with neighboring county tourism officials, could get that word out more quickly if the state would just back off. “The state cannot react quickly enough,” he said.
The state rolled out an initial commercial in late May that is playing in Charlotte, N.C.; Memphis; Tampa, Fla.; Baton Rouge; Nashville; Mobile and other Southern cities.
Montana said it is already stale. But Barbour said the Mississippi Development Authority is the most appropriate entity to oversee the remaining $11 million pot.
“We are not going to split it up … That’s a poor way to spend money when the real purpose is market penetration,” Barbour said. “We want people to see that the Coast is open for business, not ‘here’s the difference between Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian.’ ”
Rep. Scott DeLano, R-Biloxi, said the governor should untie the locals’ hands.
“Our local jurisdictions know how to spend the money,” he said.
Hood closed the hearings Tuesday evening, telling lawmakers he is lobbying Congress to rewrite the laws that allow big companies to push states into federal court as a means of stalling litigation.
Big Tobacco settled in the 1990s because they feared a trial in Pascagoula, Hood said.
“I want our claims made in state court,” he said.
To comment on this story, call Molly Parker at (601) 961-7075.
Release date: 17 May 2010
BP is today announcing grants to each of the states of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana to help their Governors promote tourism around the shores of the Gulf of Mexico over the coming months.
This is part of our ongoing commitment to help mitigate the economic impact of the oil spill.
BP is providing $25 million to Florida and $15 million each to Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
These grants are in addition to the $25 million grants BP announced May 5 to help each of the four states accelerate the implementation of Area Contingency Plans. The grants announced today are for the Governors to distribute as they see fit to promote tourism.
Mississippi Begins Gulf Coast Tourisim Campaign
State uses BP grant money to off set oil spill effects
1:25 PM CDT, June 6, 2010
Mississippi Begins Gulf Coast Tourisim Campaign
* Mississippi launches commercial campaign
* BP gives $15 million to off set effects of oil spill
* State hopes ads will help tourism
(DeSoto Co., MS 06/06/2010) – The campaign is underway to keep tourism alive along the coast despite oil gushing into the Gulf. The oil spill is affecting animals and fowl and now the state of Mississippi is afraid it will hurt tourism as well. BP gave Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida money to help pay for clean up and off set the negative effects of the Gulf oil spill. Mississippi started using $4 million of its money this weekend.
The state of Mississippi is using a commercial to attract tourists. It features the many places you might visit in the state while on vacation. The Mississippi Development Authority is worried the oil that is gushing into the Gulf Coast and now washing ashore might cause some tourists to take their vacation plans elsewhere.
The oil spill is actually the reason a Tulsa Oklahoma family is visiting Mississippi. Reid Barcus, a high school teacher, is taking his daughters all along the coast to make a documentary on the environmental disaster.
“We’re going to be documenting the shoreline and camping out. This is sort of a summer vacation and a video documentary. We’ll be posting our stuff up on YouTube,” said Barcus, Tulsa, OK.